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Have you experienced having braces?
If you do, you know the pain. At some point during your brace-days, especially during adjustments, you became drug-dependent. Advil, Mefenamic and Gum-numbing gel were your go-to drugs.
If you haven’t experience having one, maybe you have experienced having a toothache. Or a migraine. Or diarrhea. Now, put them all together and multiply by 10, that’s the level of pain of having metal wires attached to your teeth, especially during the first few days of adjustments. By the way, the exaggeration level here is 30%!
Now, imagine having braces and having a little human being who just learned sleep kungfu.
One time, I awoke to the deafening thud on my jaw. Tired and sleepy, I went back to sleep ignoring the birds and the flickers of light I saw.
The following morning, as I checked myself in the mirror, I discovered my bleeding gums.
Just to be clear, my wife does not do sleep kungfu.
Even before our baby turned one, she had mastered the art of bed space hoarding, pre-milk acrobat and sleep kungfu. Sometimes my wife and I sleep in different directions. While she goes north, I go west. And the only thing that justifies our union is the connection of our feet intersecting as we sleep.
Years ago, I was the ruler of my bed kingdom. My wife, too, was the queen of her own bed kingdom. Now, we’re both like outsiders of our king/queen-size bed. While we huddle for the little space we have on the margins of the bed, our daughter rules 90% of our bed-kingdom. I don’t know how she learned to trick us into this setup.
Another trick that she has mastered is her pre-milk acrobat. Every time she knows that its milk time, she would bend herself, raising her butt, sometimes her feet, in the air, while hiding her face in the pillow. Then, she murmurs “nanananana…” until she gets tired and sleepy or until her parents get tired and sleepy.
Once she’s finished with her ritual, usually after an hour of rolling and tumbling around, my wife and I would race to put the milk bottle in her mouth. During this time, she’s half asleep, which is very critical. If she catches an instant gaze from us, she regains back her energy as if we were back to square one.
And then we would draw our secret weapon to trick her to continue drinking her milk again.
“Hala, there’s thunder. Hala, there’s lighting. So, you should drink your milk now,” we would recite in the vernacular. I know it doesn’t make sense but who cares? It works! Most of the time. Sometimes, her energy just keeps firing up so high that it forms a protective shield around her that no trick could get into her. And that’s another hour of “meow, meow, meow,” and all sorts of noises.
Whenever she gets in the zone of drinking milk, my wife and I hold our breath and as much as possible we wouldn’t make any sound or any move. We don’t want to wake the fireball inside our baby. Else, we’re back to square one, again.
“You should put your baby to her own bed at night,” many people said.
I learned that it promotes better sleep for both the parents and the baby. It’s also a form of training the baby to be independent. Another benefit, according to some experts, is privacy for the parents.
While I don’t disagree with all the benefits, I still prefer to have our baby sleep beside us.
First, babies need frequent touch. How can you touch your baby if she’s in the next room? Touching and hugging are a form of communication. It’s how you tell your baby things like…
“I’m here for you…”
“Everything is going to be alright…”
“You are loved…”
I have learned that there are babies who died because of the lack of touch, hold and hug. As adults, a hug can ease the pain, lift depression and make someone happy. It’s because oxytocin, our happy hormone, is released when we hug someone. I think it also applies to babies.
Another reason is that I see it as our bonding moment. We’re away at work the whole day, which makes me wonder “what’s the point of having a family if we can’t be with them?” Nighttime is the only time we have left to be with her. So, we make it a point that we make the most of what we have left.
If better sleep is an issue, then, I shall find a way to conserve my energy. Our bed-kingdom may have changed, but I can deal with that.
If her independence is an issue, then, I shall accept this stage when she becomes clingy to us. Someday, she will demand her independence. She will tell us “leave me alone.” She will get embarrassed when we call her “lablab” in front of her friends. She will no longer allow us to touch her nose. She will feel disgusted when I tell her to kiss my armpit.
But before that day will come, I shall make myself available to let her feel that she’s worthy of my time and attention. I shall be willing to get kicked in the face when she sleeps. I shall be open to crawl on the floor making funny noises during mealtime. And I shall allow at least one hour for that. I shall memorize the lyrics of all her favorite songs. I shall skip work if she needs me.
Because time will come when she can stand on her own and she will no longer need me.
If our privacy is an issue, well, that, we will figure out… soon!
As regards my braces, they’re all gone now. Don’t worry! Thank you!
(This post was inspired by an FB Post of Dorcas Lledo Brion, TAKE YOUR TIME.)